Encouraging every member ministry in the church

Encouraging every member ministry in the church

When the Bible describes the local church, it often uses the language of family or body. We are the household of God, brothers and sisters in Christ. We are a body with many parts, where every part is important (such as in 1 Cor 12 and Eph 4:15-16). These word pictures communicate our connection to one another in the church.

This is very different from going to the cinema. When you attend a movie, you don’t go with the purpose of connecting with those around you and serving them. You go to appreciate the service of the actors and director, to be entertained. Everyone who goes to the cinema is there to appreciate what happens up the front and then to leave.

Our experience of the local church should be very different from the experience of going to the cinema if we are going to take the Bible seriously. Everyone, every single person in the local church, should be active in serving one another and using their gifts. This is what is sometimes called every member ministry, as opposed to coming along and appreciating what the ‘professionals’ are doing up the front.

What gets in the way of us having every member ministry in our churches?

A too-high view of the pastor or elders

We tend to overemphasise the importance of pastors and elders. Yes, these roles are important to the health of the church. But they are simply some roles among many. To use the language of 1 Corinthians 13, we must not say to any part of the body, “because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body”. We need eyes and feet. Church leaders are sinners who need Jesus just as much as anyone else in the church; everyone in the church is essential.

The size of the church

As a church grows, what tends to happen is that a smaller proportion of the church serves in some way. It is obvious that everyone needs to help when the church is small. A congregation of over a hundred will mean that quite a few might be treating the church like a cinema. All the key things seem to be done by someone else, so we might as well sit back and appreciate the show.

The relationship of staff to volunteers

The majority of service in the church should always be done by the congregation. Yes, we need staff, and they are a real blessing. But if the culture of the church is to provide staff to do all the key roles, that will discourage the wider church population from serving. New staff appointments must be made carefully to encourage more service rather than replacing the service of many faithful volunteers.

Consumer culture

The wider culture of our society encourages us to be consumers. We shop around when we buy products and look for what is best for us. In our busy lives, the local church that might look best to some is the one where they don’t need to do very much. The larger church, where everything is well run and slick, seems better than the one that is smaller and more personal to those who are time-poor.


It’s one thing to identify why we often struggle to have a real every-member ministry, but what can we do to encourage it? Here are a few ideas:

Provide training

No-one knows how to do something without being instructed. The local church needs to have a culture of training in all kinds of areas. Staff should have training as a major part of what they do; the youth pastor does not run everything in the youth group but trains and encourages a group of volunteers to do this. Give people regular opportunities to learn and try new areas of service.

Demonstrate every member ministry

Important truths are demonstrated, not only taught. If the only people serving in prominent up-front roles are staff, that communicates that staff do these kinds of things. Having a range of service leaders and musicians is essential. Championing those who serve in a range of areas also helps to show that there are many ways to serve and everyone can do this.

Teaching it at every opportunity

As our culture encourages us to be consumers, the church must teach the alternative view of the church as a family and a body. This is not only when you get to 1 Corinthians 13 or Ephesians 4 but can also include applications in many other sermons. Congregational meetings give an opportunity to explain the ministry of the church and what it should look like.


Church is so much more than the cinema experience. If we all serve in different ways, we are all stronger for it.